You Can Have It Both Ways

A lot of people may get a chuckle from this title, knowing that I am bisexual, but I thought that the topic for this issue of Whosoever would be a great time to talk about one of the miracles in my own life that came from God: the fact that I was not able to accept and feel good about my own sexuality until I embraced the very God that I feared wanted to change my sexual orientation for so long, that, or make me so guilt ridden that I would do it myself. My title does not so much refer to the fact that I love both a woman and a man but rather that through the Loving Spirit of Christ I have learned that I do not have to make the choice that so many LGBT Christians and seekers fear that they are required to make: a relationship with God through Christ or their natural sexuality. But the beautiful truth is that you can have both. My life as well that of many has proven this to be true.

Might I add that it has not always been an easy road, but then again, is anything in life always a walk in the park? Sure, everything is not difficult, but there are obstacles in life for all of us. This is where the Bible, when read and interpreted with a loving heart, shows to me how those in Biblical times depended on their faith in God to face said obstacles. And I can tell you from personal experience that I have tried making it through this life two ways: Trusting in God, and not trusting in God, and I can tell you beyond a fraction of a shadow of doubt that in this case, unlike my attractions, sexuality, and feelings, there was only one choice, and that was to trust in God. I don`t have to believe in a literal burning hell to be a Christian: my life before I knew the real Loving God, the Loving Spirit of Christ and His teachings, my life WAS a living hell.

A great deal of my life was spent angry with God, because I never was taught about the real nature of God, unconditional Love for all of Creation. Very few of the Christians, or Sunday School Classes or churches I attended growing up, taught about how great this Love is. Instead they chose to use fear to try and scare us into knowing Jesus, somehow turning Him into a sort of “get out of hell free” card in some theological game of “Monopoly”. The image presented was always of a God that was angry with us, yet loved us dearly. Yet if we believed the incorrect way he would not only bring us to a terrible end but then burn and torture us for all of eternity. He sounded suspiciously to me like an abusive parent, who favored “tough love” over nurturing and teaching love. Also God was depicted as despising sexuality, unless it was what I referred to as “3M” sexuality: Married, monogamous, missionary position. This was, of course, heterosexual, and primarily for the act of creating new lives only, with pleasure (usually only of the husband’s) being a fringe benefit for “having to do such a disgusting activity to procreate.” As I began to have sexual feelings and attractions to both genders, and knew full well that they did not fit the strict guidelines prescribed by the church, it wasn’t very long before I not only was terrified of God, I began to actually hate God. And it was only because I never knew the real God.

I was talking to a bisexual female friend of mine recently. She related to me how she and her son were in a diner and how a self-proclaimed Fundamentalist Christian invited himself to sit with them. He began to assault them with a conversion attempt, going so far as to sitting on the outside of the booth and refusing to let her get up when the conversation turned to his beliefs. He asked her what she believed and she responded with, “I am a very spiritual person, and my faith is a private matter.” To which he responded, “Yep, that’s the work of the devil, all right. This “unity” and “world peace” is all Satan`s work. Everyone cannot be `One`”. She responded with a change of the subject, and I think she said he went into the story of how he was taught at Bible College that the Beatles were sent by satanic cults to corrupt the youth in their day. His comments chilled me, because I thought to myself, this type of talk was the type of thing that made me want nothing to do with God or Jesus at all at one time. This is also the same type of talk that has caused a lot of people I know, mostly friends who are in the LGBT Community but also those outside of it, to build a wall of resistance against any form of Christianity. In some cases, this has caused them to perceive God as an enemy to be avoided, or, at the very least, to be rejected. And what makes matters worse is that when I try to tell them God is on their side and loves and supports them just the way they are, they have already built up a huge resistance to God, and even more so, Christianity.

I personally believe that much of this comes from the fact that in today`s culture, the word “Christian” used as an adjective has become just as much of a “loaded term” as another one I identify with, “bisexual”. People hear the term “He/she is a Christian” and there are as many if not more immediate assumptions than when one says, “He/she is a bisexual”; many of these assumptions are stereotypes that may or may not be true. And some carry a negative connotation for many. A good example: when I tell others I am bisexual, they immediately assume that I am emotionally and sexually involved with both a woman and a man. In my case, that is true, as it is for many other bisexuals, however it is certainly not true for ALL bisexuals. There is a great deal of diversity in the way bisexuals experience their attractions and feelings, some are monogamous and some like me are poly-fidelitous, and choose to live these relationships openly and honestly and with respect to all others. The same thing when I tell people “I am a Christian,” they automatically assume that I believe that I am a conservative, that I vote a certain way, that I am judgmental of others who might be on a different spiritual journey, that I believe the Bible as the literal and infallible word of God instead of some beautiful words that people gave us to help us learn about the real nature of God, and that I am out to convert everyone to my version of Christianity. While there are Christians, including LGBT Christians who may believe all or some of the above, it certainly does not apply to all of us: there are many hues to the rainbow that all come together beautifully-it wouldn’t be the same if the rainbow were all one color.

I don’t think that enough Christians who have embraced the Loving Christ and His teachings are willing to speak out with confidence and conviction about the sincerity of their faith. That’s probably because when we do we are all too quickly silenced by those who claim to know the Divine Will of God and use it to defend their prejudices. But the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, when read and studied have nothing to do with the self-righteous judgment of others and the sense of piety that most who have not studied what Jesus really said and is all about immediately associate with Christianity. The very judgment that most self-proclaimed Christians level at those of us who are LGBT or otherwise non-conformist to a literal Biblical interpretation is not only not to be found in the ministry of Christ, He taught that it is no human being`s place or right to judge another. In fact, He turned the dogmatic religious teachings of the time upside down with an emphasis on love being the focus of all of our actions and activities and decisions, love for God, for one another, and God`s Creation.

But they never taught me this is Sunday School and the Youth Groups I was in growing up. Instead there were endless warnings about the devil who seemed to get more attention than God. That left me ill prepared for the times when I truly needed the peace of God and Jesus in my heart to help me effectively and lovingly respond to prejudice and hate and temptations to do something unethical to better my own causes. And when I was told that anything other than what one fundamentalist version of Christianity taught was “the work of the devil,” I felt lost. Having been told that anything, no matter how sincerely good, honest and Christian, other than a literal Biblical interpretation was a “lie of the devil”, I honestly felt that I didn`t stand a chance in hell with God, so after high school, I turned to Satanism. I knew I was destined to burn in hell, so I figured that I might as well get in good with the devil. Big mistake — though not for the reasons you might think.

I have said before and I will say it again, I do not believe in a literal devil or “being” that is somehow “omnipresent” and in a battle with God. But I do believe that the Bible, and Jesus, when they speak of “Satan” is referring to fear and negative energy that can tempt and influence us to make decisions that will cause us to be unloving towards others and forget how much God really does Love us. What I did not realize as I said I was a “Satanist” in my post high-school/pre-college years was that since I had never studied their beliefs and ideas. I was in direct opposition to everything they believed. At the heart of their ideas is a thought that I truly would have found evil at the time: the concept that one should look out for number one, and step on anyone else in their way. One of their teachings says, “not to waste love on worthless people who cannot help themselves.” Had I known this, I would have never even claimed to be a part of it. Add to that the fact that one who is a “Satanist” is basically perpetuating a belief system that reinforces fundamentalist dualistic thinking, one of either being a fundamentalist Christian or rejecting God altogether, and (at least in my case) you have a recipe for a nervous breakdown. I maintained that I hated God and was in allegiance to “the other side” until I actually looked at what they believed and recoiled in total horror; just as I was turned off by dogmatic fundamentalist Christianity.

For a long time, it was not so much that I hated God. It was sort of like the issue of my bisexual orientation and my attraction to men as well as women. God and religion was an issue that I knew in my heart was something very real, but I chose not to think about or deal with it. As I have written before, however, I could not come to terms with my sexuality until I came to terms with God.

Even during those lost years when I turned to a variety of things such as alcohol to numb the pain and hurt I felt inside — anything to avoid facing the really scary demon in my life — that of living and being who I was and knowing that the majority of the world saw me as a deviant, or at the very least, mentally ill due to my bisexuality. Deep down I think the Loving image of Jesus from the Sunday School classes of my youth before they started talking about Heaven and Hell and Armageddon and being saved, stayed with me. I vividly recall how that ended, with a Sunday School teacher asking me at age seven if I was saved. Since I had no reason to believe that I was in any danger or need of “saving”, as I believed that God was all-powerful, all-loving, and always watching over and taking care of me, I asked her what she meant. She said, “Well picture your heart as having a door and Jesus standing outside knocking, wanting to come in. You must invite Him in or you won’t go to Heaven when you die. Have you asked Him yet?” Not knowing I had to ask for God and Jesus to love me, and even though I was bright for my age knowing nothing of “doctrine” I told her, “Well, yes, I think so.” To which she replied, “You’d better be sure! Because if you ask Him again and you already asked, that is calling the Lord a liar, and when you die you will go to the burning lake of fire instead of to Heaven with Mommy and Daddy!” I lay awake all night that night before school the next day, terrified of dying before I would wake, praying and begging Jesus over and over to PLEASE come into my heart, not because of how wonderful He was, but because I was scared to death. I know He heard me, even years later, that night. After that experience, I was not too fond of Sunday School anymore. But the Jesus Who Loved all the Little Children, that thank God was my first image of Jesus.

And it was that image of a Loving Jesus, Who loves and accepts me just the way I am no matter how many of His followers, even in their good intentions that paved a road to hell for me at one time, think I am a sinner, a liar, a fool of myself making a mockery of God, that brought me back, out of the depths of denial, and alcohol abuse, and spiritual emptiness void of any real faith in anything. It was really reading the Bible and finding out what He really said, and heeding it with an open heart and mind that made me make the conscious adult decision to commit my soul to His teachings, knowing that what He said really does work and makes natural sense, for the best life we could ever possibly imagine. I came to Jesus this time with hope instead of out of fear. And this time when I asked His Spirit into my heart, I felt it, even though the conservative Christians who see my liberal views as counterfeit and insincere said that I had not received it, and even in my times of trial, I still feel it. They can say that this Jesus I know is the “devil” all they want to, but even if that had been the case, I could not worship a cruel God that would Create me one way and then demand my being someone different. I laugh sometimes that sometimes their image of God looks more like the devil to me, but in my understanding, hell and the devil are not real, but only illusions that befall us from not believing in God, and trusting in God. And for me, as well as many other LGBT and other Christian folks who have had a fundamentalist/fear based upbringing, that trust in and of itself can be a direct Miracle of God.

In Junior High and High School, as I was first becoming really aware of my sexuality and that it did not fit the “norm”, my parents had demanded my attendance at another fundamentalist church. My father seemed to enjoy it more from his conservative political standpoint, being more of the Southern Baptist Convention point of view; my mother (who is adamant that you call her a Baptist from the South and not a Southern Baptist) just loved the old time gospel songs and the peace with God she felt from just going to Sunday worship. She never got wrapped up in the guessing games of which presidential candidate was in league with the devil and most likely to be the antichrist, what current events could be seen as corresponding to the book of Revelation, or what sin the Jones’s son was rumored to be wrapped up in and in need of prayer for. She just went to church because she loved God and Jesus and was grateful for the life God had given her, because the church was close, and because my father was “head of the house”; I went because my father said, “My house, my rules, period.” I was amazed at how much talk about sin and the devil there was, and how little about Love. I was not happy there at all, because all it seemed to be about was what a wretch I was, and how I had best consider myself lucky that God was forgiving since I was such a miserable sinner by default. I clearly recall the reason I walked out of church at age 16, not return for thirteen years.

I had begun hanging out with the “Youth Group” and though we had some fun, the man running it outright scared me to death. He was constantly trying in conversation to find out what our “sins” were over pizza or ice cream. Then rather than talk about fun things, he was usually gravely serious as he told us how the last R-Rated movie he had committed the sin of going to see had featured such horrible acts as the couple in love engaging in pre-marital sex (though implied and not shown, it was still evil). He talked about how the latest bands most of the kids liked, Def Leppard, Rush, and possibly Michael Jackson were Satan-worshippers, and how having any type of sexual thought or even speaking of masturbation was a serious sin. And of course, lots about the end times. Once we were bussed to an auditorium to listen to a hell-fire preacher tell us about how the only sex that we were ever supposed to think about was married heterosexual sex, period. And, then, not until after we were married, because anything else meant we did not love the other person, how heavy metal musicians all practiced necrophilia and how the devil was alive and well at every corner waiting for us to trip up. Very little was said about the blessings of a personal relationship with God through Christ, it was just a guaranteed ticket out of hell, with Jesus reduced to the travel agent to Heaven. At the end of the two hours, sobbing teens and adults were ushered down to the altar call to be “interviewed” by “counselors” who would say the prayer to save them (or re-save them, as some had “backslidden”) and get their boarding pass. I consciously did not go. I wonder if some of them are paying as dearly as I did for so many years, convinced that I was unfit as I was to call myself a Christian. And then that night, one of the guys in Youth Group asked me to go to a Seminar about the Crucifixion to celebrate Easter that was rapidly approaching. It was a weekend event, held at the church, especially for youth, and of course my father pushed me to go, and most of my friends were going. So I did.

I have always cared very deeply about others, and cannot stand to see others hurt, partly because I have hurt and know it is no fun, partly because I am hypersensitive to the feelings of others as well as my own, and partially because my heart is very open. People have, unfortunately, in the past, used that as a tool to manipulate me into doing things that make me hurt as well, especially in the realm of religious guilt. Tears from my parents and grandparents over their fear that I might burn in hell for what they were taught were my sins, (after a while of the church being mentioned, Mom began to fear for my salvation), “If you loved us then you would/would not _________, how can you hurt/embarrass us this way?” “If you don’t make this decision the way that I want you to then you will hurt my feelings, ” and so on. Well, the minister in this youth conference used an interesting story ( I shudder to call it anything like a parable) to tell “what our sins do to God and to Jesus”:

“I had a friend, and he had a beautiful two year old daughter, she was his pride and joy. He was a good man, never had an unkind word to say to others, lovely wife, nice home, good life. One morning he got into his car to pull it out and he did not realize that his daughter had wandered outside and had fallen asleep with her head behind the rear wheel of the car soon enough, and he backed over her head, instantly ending her life.” Some of the girls in church who were in their teens began to cry then. “Now, take that feeling that man must have felt, that sickening feeling he had when he felt that give and heard the crushing noise, and realized what it was. Take that feeling he must have had when he got out of the car and saw what had happened, and then multiply that by a million times, and that is a one-trillionth of what Lord Jesus feels every time you even think about sinning. Every time you refuse to go to church, every time you listen to that heavy metal rock record, every time you want to look at that adult magazine, or have an impure thought, or disobey your parents. A million times the horror and revulsion that man felt when he saw that he had crushed his infant daughter’s skull is but the tiniest fraction of the hurt and pain that Jesus, who gave His life in agony to pay for your sins, feels when you so much as think of committing a sin.”

There were a lot of people at the altar call that day, but I was not one of them. I got up and left, vowing that I would never set foot in a church again, and my whole thought was, “forget God, forget Jesus, and forget Christianity, period. Only “forget” is, tragically, not what I was thinking. I had been presented with an image of God as either a harsh and cruel judge who seemed to delight in pitting human beings at odd with a being that the church called the devil that seemed to represent a more powerful force than God to them. Or as of a God who sought to manipulate people through guilt when fear did not work. Not once did I ever hear that God Loves You no matter what, all I heard was “God Loves You, but you had better do as He says — or else.” And having had enough conditional love in my life, enough pain, and enough fear and guilt to begin with, I decided that being a Christian and believing in God was a hassle I did not need.

I was a good kid. I never broke the law, I never made fun of others, I strived to do well in school and do good towards others. I returned hate with love, anger with kindness, and turned the other cheek instead of seeking vengeance. I never stole from others, and was very giving and considerate of others, and I was convinced that none of this mattered, because, due to the fact that I was comfortable with my sexuality and feelings and attractions to both girls and guys, I was unable to be acceptable to God. And since I had been told that any Christian church that did not believe the Bible as literally and infallibly true was in league with the devil, I rejected not only Christianity but God altogether. And it stayed that way for many years, as I mentioned earlier. It is truly a miracle that I am a Christian today after the hell I went through.

I have to admit, I still have a great sensitivity to others who preach the kind of Christianity that turned me away from knowing God and Jesus for so long, and I more often than not avoid them, choosing to love them from a distance. I have never had and never will have a problem with anyone believing whatever they wish about God, Jesus, or the Bible, no matter how in opposition to my beliefs it is. Where I draw the line is when other people attempt to push those views on others or me. To me, if one is at peace with their faith and what they believe, they may wish to share what their faith is, but do not feel a need to force others to believe as they do, almost brutally and cruelly in many cases. using fear, guilt, and psychological manipulation that I find personally very much like the “devil” they say Christians like me are in league with-I often call it “spiritual rape” or “emotional blackmail” to hurt others this way. It has pushed so many who need God the most so far away. But not me, anymore. For once I trusted God, and really took to heart what Jesus said instead of other human beings who claim to speak for Him say. I felt that love in my heart. I knew I would never leave God again, and wondered how in the hell I ever made it without knowing God. Then I remember that it was because, as the poem says, Jesus was carrying me.

At one time in my life, I hated even the thought of God, let alone Jesus. But now I know that my inner peace and the happiness and freedom I have found, as well as the peace about my sexuality I have found could come from no other source but God. No matter how many people may tell you your desires are Biblically an “abomination” or a “sin”; no matter how irreconcilable you think your spirituality and your sexuality are; no matter how much you feel God opposes you loving who you love; no matter how unacceptable anyone says you are to God, please remember that nothing that God Created is not natural. God created every form of sexual expression that can be shared among consenting adults who love and care about one another which exists. I believe that what matters the most about sexuality and how we express the God-given gift regardless of our sexual orientation is if we are acting with love and respect for all concerned, and I think that is what Jesus would say. And He is the best Friend I have ever had, at times the only Friend I have had, and the One who saved me from a hell of fear, denial, and pain.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find, when I actually read the Bible, especially the words of Jesus, that I found no sign of what is modern-day fundamentalism; what I found was the total opposite: Do not judge, Love for God and one another overrides strict religious Laws and Rules, and God Loves us. Heaven is not some far away place that is a prize when you die, but a place that is found within the soul that is available to us here and now. Where I expected to find fear and terror and childhood memories by reading it, I found real hope for the first time in my life. And now I try to do as the song says and “pass it on” to others. I love letting others know that whether they are heterosexual, gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, conservative, liberal, monogamous, poly-fidelitous, or whatever their sexuality may be, that God Loves them and wants them to be happy. And that no matter how much fear of God they have, no matter how rejected they feel, or no matter how different they feel, they do not have to choose between being themselves and being a Christian. Sometimes people I tell about my Christian faith are a bit surprised, here they see a bisexual man who is intimately involved with a woman and a man, and who affirms all forms of loving and consensual sexual expression, and he is saying he is a Christian? I can almost see the question marks and exclamation marks appear above their heads. But more often than talking about it, I try to live it, by what I do — not depending on telling them what it is that I believe but living as though I believe it. Striving to do the loving thing even when I might miss an opportunity to get ahead by doing something unloving, dishonest, or uncaring. Forgiving instead of holding a grudge and “getting even”. Returning hate with unconditional love. Going out of my way to help someone, especially when everyone else says, “They don’t deserve it.” And when I do fall victim to frustration, or anger, or a lapse of fear, I know I am forgiven, and do my best to avoid doing so again.

A lot of people who are not Christians ask me how and why I choose to be a part of a religion that has caused so much pain for those of us who are LGBT as well as those who are in relationships such as the ones I have. How could I possibly be able to be who I am and live and love as I do without being consumed alive by guilt, fear and shame? I try to tell them what I know is the Truth in my heart. None of the peace and the happiness that I know would be here if not for God. If I had not made a commitment to God, and trusting in the teachings of Jesus, I could have never had the strength to be who I am and not feel unacceptable. I did not find peace about my bisexuality, my need for intimacy with a female and a male partner, or who I was until I really felt at peace with God and truly embraced what Jesus taught about God. I found the Loving God I longed for all my life but had been scared away from by others who had had the “fear of God” put into them by others. Nothing which brings me joy and happiness, or which brings joy and happiness to others would be possible without God.

I have told the story several times here of how I found peace with God, and how wonderful that was, but I wanted to share some of the stories about the “hell” I went through getting there. As far as the part about not having to choose God or my sexuality, I could go on for days about what a long and slow process the reconciliation of my spirituality and sexuality was, and how it was sheer faith in God that pulled me through a lot of dark valleys of depression and hopelessness. But even in the times when conservative Christians and even atheists who thought I was wasting my time tried to discourage me, it was what Jesus said about that tiny mustard seed of faith being enough that kept pulling me through. I do recall, very vividly, at one point when I got wrapped up briefly in fundamentalism while I was still “searching” that I tried to pray to be “straight and normal.” It felt very unnatural to pray such a thing, almost like slapping God in the face and saying, “Hey, You messed up on me!” And I could very clearly feel and hear that still small voice telling me that who I was made to be was not the abomination, but my trying to be someone I was not was the real abomination, and that realization was the beginning of my healing and wholeness.

And for those who feel as if there is a vast chasm between their feeling at peace with God and at peace with their sexual orientation and/or sexuality, let me offer this: Just as the Red Sea parted for Moses, there will be a healing bridge for you. It can, will, and does happen. I look at the story of the parting of the Red Sea as one of the greatest parables of the Old Testament. Whatever is chasing you, whatever you are trying to get away from, whatever or whoever is persecuting you, God will give you a way and clear a path for you if only you have faith. God did not create you to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender and then expect you to change. Your sexuality is a gift. I believe that those of us that are different from the mainstream can set a wonderful example by living our truth in a way that is honest, loving, and respectful of others, better than if we simply attempted to conform to ideas that are contrary to who we truly are.

It begins with truly embracing the teachings of Christ that God loves us all unconditionally, just as we are, and a sincere gratitude for all God has done for us. If you do not feel comfortable attending a church just yet, or have not yet been able to find an LGBT-accepting church, trust that God will guide you to one and just start from the basics-what Jesus said about the Greatest Commandment: Love God and Love Thy Neighbor. As difficult as it may be, you might find as I did that you have to sort of start all over again. You must become as a little child who has never heard about religious dogma, prejudice, or fundamentalist doctrine, and just believe that God is Love, and loves us all, and that Jesus embodied the true example of what God’s Love is all about, and go from there. If you have even the smallest “mustard seed” of faith, miracles will happen for you as they did for me and many others here, and God will send many angels in the disguise of loving people who will guide you. But just keep the faith no matter how many try to tell you that God does not love you just because you are different from what their idea of “Christian” is. Because I can tell you that it definitely is well worth it. You will find, as I did, that not only do you not have to change or give up your natural sexuality in order to be a Christian or to be loved by God, but you will find that just as you gain a greater appreciation for all of Creation that all good things are gifts of God. It is all in how we choose to live the truth of who we are that makes the difference. Don’t let anyone tell you that you have to choose between your sexual orientation, sexuality, or individuality and God. You really can have it both ways. And when you reach that realization, the joy you feel is something that will overflow into the lives of all those around you. I believe God made us as we are for a reason. God wants us to be happy with who we are, so that we can reach out and share our joy with others. I think that sharing the joy we receive from God with others is a more powerful witness than anything else is.